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A Perspective on Kashmir Imbroglio PDF Print
Written by Maj. Gen. (Ret'd) Afsir Karim   
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 00:00


If Pakistan was able to annex the entire state of Kashmir it would have emerged as much bigger country, moreover it would have outflanked India’s vital western frontier areas of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. These geostrategic factors have not changed; on the other hand India’s western and northern flanks have become more vulnerable after the annexation of Tibet and Xinjiang by China. India’s vital security interests cannot allow any further inroads into Kashmir by Pakistan or China, regardless of any other consideration. The basic fact of geostrategic significance of J&K must be understood by the Indian policy makers, it should be clear to them that the internal turbulence and the Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir must be dealt with a very firm hand. It should be realized that Pakistan’s aim is not limited to annexation of Kashmir only; its ultimate objective is to change the balance of power in South Asia in its favour- annexation of Kashmir is merely a stepping stone.


It is evident that a peaceful solution of the Kashmir problem will only emerge if geo-strategic ambitions of Pakistan are curbed by the international community and India’s strategic concerns are adequately addressed.
 
 
TWO DIMENSIONS OF THE PROBLEM
 
The problem in J&K has two clear cut dimensions although they are interrelated but they require different approaches and strategies. One is Indo-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir and the other is the internal turmoil in Kashmir aided and abetted by Pakistan
 
All efforts are necessary to find a workable arrangement of the Kashmir problem with Pakistan but our priority should be to resolve the internal issues first as this would reduce the capability of Pakistan to intrude in our territory and eliminate separatist influence in the state. The internal and external factors have been examined here with the view to broadly assess the chances of establishing peace and stability within Kashmir and the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the problem between India and Pakistan in the current global security environments. 
 
 
 THE INTERNAL PROBLEM
 
 The demand of an independent state comprising all parts of   Kashmir was initially raised by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF); JKLF soon took recourse to violence for destabilizing the government and mustering international support for the independence movement. Pro-Pakistan elements joined the band wagon and took advantage of the turbulence created by this movement to generate widespread anti-India sentiments. A virulent anti–India campaign emerged in the seventies followed by an indoctrination process to create armed jihadi cadres. By the end of 1987 the independence agenda of the JKLF was sidelined and a violent Pakistani sponsored movement emerged in the Valley that was supported mainly by Jamaat-e-Islami ((Kashmir) (JEI-K) and cadres of Hizb-ul- Mujahidin based in Kashmir valley and Pakistan. By 1988 Pakistan had trained a large number of Kashmiri youths from both sides of the LoC for subversive and terrorist activities. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces Afghanistan war veterans were mobilized by Pakistan to organize and lead the Pak-sponsored terrorist movement in J&K. The pro-Pak elements in the Kashmir valley played a supporting role by providing shelter to Pakistan sponsored terrorist groups and fomenting political turmoil in the states long as the terrorist infrastructure and fundamentalist propaganda is sustained by the separatist groups in Kashmir valley there is no possibility of abatement of violence in J&K. Violent incidents are frequently engineered and rumours are circulated to discredit the security forces and to raise public anger against the government, this translates into alienation and administrative chaos. If we continue to deal with the separatists with kid gloves, they will continue to sabotage elected governments and help Pakistan in destabilizing the state. It is time to stop the policy of appeasing hardliners in Kashmir through mealy mouthed interlocutors and dubious agents; it is still not too late to adopt a policy that would put down the activities of antinational elements and their nefarious games with a firm hand.
 
Although the debate on Kashmir is no longer limited to a few rigid positions taken earlier by various separatist factions in the Valley yet no national or regional player has a clear vision about the future set up in Kashmir, there is no political movement in sight that would undermine the agenda of separatists and Pakistani surrogates operating in the state.
 
There is a requirement of consensus among the national and regional political parties on the core issues involved and steps that would help in stabilizing Kashmir. As of now the government of India seems to have no clear cut solution in mind for curbing internal turmoil created by the separatist groups on behest of Pakistan. Growing alienation is one of the main reasons for lack of forward movement towards the resolution of the Kashmir problem. 
 
AGENDAS OF KEY PLAYERS
Political parties and assorted separatist groups of Kashmir want a solution of the Kashmir problem on their own terms, they hope that a solution would emerge that would give them a dominant political position in any future set up. The definitions of a solution depend much on the identity of the originators and their political ambitions. Pro-Pakistan elements in J&K want the state to merge with Pakistan, National Conference demands restoration of the position that existed under the Delhi Agreement, 1952, which essentially means all matters, except defence, foreign affairs and communications, would be under the jurisdiction of the state government. The idea of greater autonomy is popular with young Kashmiri leaders, who see it as a way out of the present impasse, but it cuts no ice with the pro-Pakistan elements who will continue their antinational activities and block all efforts towards reconciliation.
 
People’s Democratic Party’s ideas on self rule include an elected governor, separate civil services, a new indigenous police set up and constitutional guarantees against imposition of article 356, the party also suggested a regional federation and a consultative mechanism to resolve issues between three units, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. P D P maintains this proposal would lead to greater integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country.
 
 Omar Abdullah once said. "No Indian prime minister will ever have a mandate to redraw lines; … but there are ways around this - if the border becomes irrelevant to the extent that nobody talks about it, then perhaps both sides would have won without either side losing."
 
Syed Ali Shah Geelani who is a member of the hard-line faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference says., there is only one way to resolve the dispute - and it dates back to 1947. He says “The whole state should be given to the U.N. Security Council so that they will take control of the whole state,”… “And then they will arrange the plebiscite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This is our basic demand, we have rejected all other solutions and other road maps and other formulas because they are not according to our wishes.” It is a well known fact that the man is an agent of Pakistani radical groups and much blood has flowed in Kashmir because of his connivance with them. He wants the turmoil to continue as he has no place in present day Kashmir.
 
The solution offered by the US based Kashmir Study Group (KSG) is predicated on the communal lines though it is being presented in a secular format. In 1998  Kashmir Study group developed the so-called Livingston Proposal called, “Kashmir: A Way Forward” The proposals was first put forward in 2005, it proposed that  portions of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir be reconstituted into self-governing entities enjoying free access to one another and to and from both India and Pakistan.
 
Some separatist leaders have unrealistic visions of an independent Kashmir as the Switzerland of the east; some demand a ‘United States of Kashmir’ under the joint supervision by India and Pakistan. They do not realize that the erstwhile Kashmir state does not exist any more, it has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and the reality of present boundary lines cannot be wished away. The sooner they accept this fact the better it would be for the people of Kashmir. It may be better if the government of India made it clear to the people and the leaders of Kashmir in unambiguous terms that J&K will remain a part of federal India, like any other state of India, come whatever may.
 
Proposals that aim to divide Kashmir on communal lines cannot be accepted by India in any form, and grant of a degree of autonomy to different portions on both sides of the LOC is unlikely to bring any change in the objectives of the Jihadi or pro- Pakistan separatist groups. The proposals of self rule put forward by diverse political groups in Kashmir is more of a ploy to gain maximum political mileage, muster support of the fence-sitters and pro-independence lobbies. It can be safely assumed that both factions of APHC and other separatist groups are only jockeying for power in the Valley and once in power they will support militants and the Jihadis who want to establish a United Islamic State of Kashmir with close affiliation with Pakistan.
 
There is no way the government of India can meet the aspirations and demands of all the diverse political factions of Kashmir, it should, therefore, come up with a solution that will largely meet the aspirations of the common man and ensure India’s security on its sensitive and vulnerable western and northwestern frontiers. Our national interests must have priority over all other considerations
 
THE SURROGATE WARRIORS
 
Pakistan’s surrogate warriors operating in J&K are now a highly trained force, equipped with high caliber weapons and remote control devices they have capability of blowing up bunkers and vehicles with high explosives. They have gradually developed ways and means to wage a long drawn asymmetrical war against the security forces including the Indian army. Sponsored terrorism has assumed the shape of a shadow war because of local help provided to Pakistan sponsored terrorist groups. Pakistani sponsors extensively use Kashmiri religious parties and separatist cadres in the Valley taking advantage of a benevolent democratic set up of India.
 
The armed groups operating in J&K depend mainly on Pakistan army/ISI for training, supply of weapons, and provision of sophisticated communications, safe bases and financial support. The terrorist network has spread all over J&K in the last two decades and the links between the indigenous groups and the sponsors in Pakistan are now firmly established. We should make concerted efforts to break the nexus between indigenous and foreign groups and give no quarter to those who provide shelter to Pakistan based terror groups.
 
THE PAKISTAN ARMY
 
The army brass in Pakistan is the arbiter of all security related decisions and it has a well set policy on Kashmir that translates into three basic components; first, no compromise on Kashmir issue without very substantial territorial gains: second, destabilising J&K government through subversion and terrorism, Third, neutralizing the conventional military advantage of India  through asymmetrical warfare. The present policy of Pakistan army is primarily premised on the following factors:
Depicting India as enemy number one for continuing the predominant position of the army in the country.
Avenging the humiliating defeat of the army in 1971 war that resulted in the division of Pakistan by inflicting maximum casualties on the Indian army in Kashmir
Increasing insurgency and terrorism to force India to accept Pakistan’s demands in Kashmir.
Creating larger strategic space for Pakistan in the subcontinent by annexing more areas in Kashmir.
This mind set is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future unless Pakistani army brass is made to realize that annexation of any part of J&K, destabilizing India or changing of balance of power in South Asia is entirely beyond its capability and the proxy war against India will prove unbearably costly for it in the long run.
 
FUNDAMENTALISTS AND JIHADIS
 
Insurgent Jihadi groups that are operating from Pakistan and are being sustained by Pakistan include al-Qaeda, various Taliban networks and numerous militant organizations; prominent among the Kashmir-focused groups are Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyaiba and the Kashmiri Hizbul Mujahideen.
 
Hizbul Mujahideen leaders, egged on by the ISI, propagate that jihad is the only way to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation. Addressing a ‘Jihad Paigham’ conference, the supreme commander Syed Sallahuddin criticised the reconciliatory policies of Gen Pervez Musharraf, he said that due to his Kashmir policy the cause of Kashmir had received a setback. Most other speakers also urged people to come forward to wage jihad and support the ‘Kashmir liberation movement’. They insinuated that the liberation movement has reached a crucial stage and a little push would force the Indian occupation forces out of the area. 
 
In a recent conference in Muzaffrabad, several jihadi leaders including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed reiterated that Jihad – holy war, must be waged against India to annex Kashmir.
 
As reported in the media while addressing the seminar on ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ held under the aegis of Nazria-i-Pakistan Trust, editor Nawa-i-Waqt and Chairman, Nazria-e-Pakistan Trust, Majid Nizami asserted that Kashmir could not be freed without Jihad, maintaining that if President Asif Ali Zardari is the real successor of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he might follow in the footsteps of Bhutto who had pledged to continue the fight for thousands of years for freedom of Kashmir.  Majid Nizami urged the Pakistan Army to keep their cannons, missiles and nuclear bomb ready to hit India as we would have to wage Jihad for the freedom of Kashmir.
He also said: ‘I am sure that if plebiscite is conducted in Kashmir to know their consent, all Kashmiris will readily join Pakistan’. He reminded people that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had termed Kashmir integral part of Pakistan only for the reason that Pakistan is an agricultural country and water of the rivers coming from mountains of Kashmir was very important for survival of the country. He said that without this water Pakistan would become desert and only solution to get Kashmir freedom was to wage Jihad.
 
General Hameed Gul retired, former ISI boss was forth right in his call to wage a jihad to free Kashmir from India. The declaration at the end of the conference demanded that region’s status as a base camp for militant groups should be restored and the ban on Kashmiri Jihadi groups should be lifted.
 
A conglomeration of Islamists with large public support exist in Pakistan, they also have a good number of supporters in the lower and middle rank of the Pakistan army. Their ultimate objective is to establish an ‘Islamic State of Kashmir’ under rigid Sharia laws. Their antagonism to India is on religious grounds, they consider ‘Hindu India’ an enemy of Islam. Many of them believe that Pakistan and Islam must prevail in the entire subcontinent. Any compromise with the polytheistic Indians is considered a betrayal of Islam. In the same context they believe that Kashmiri Muslims must be freed from India’s clutches by Jihad and it is the bounden duty of every Muslim to join this Jihad.
 
It is doubtful if the mindset of the Jihadi groups or policy of the Pakistan army of engaging India in a proxy war will change and these elements will block every peace move initiated by India. India has no other choice but to be ready to deal with Pakistan sponsored terrorism with an iron hand and show no mercy to those who are supporting the Pakistani agenda while enjoying all the democratic privileges available to them in India.  
 
There is little difference in the Kashmir policy of the Pakistan army and the Islamists, both sustain and support the terrorist groups which are operating In Kashmir. The Jihadis are the fountainhead of fundamentalism; they sustain and support Al- Qaeda and Taliban activities in Pakistan. They are unwilling to accept any compromise on Kashmir; they believe force must be used to dislodge India from Kashmir. In such a situation our best bet would be to rapidly transform India into big economic and military power that would put an end to all attempts by Pakistan to change the balance of power in South Asia
 
CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
 
Terrorism is not likely to abate in the current political milieu prevailing in Pakistan, Jihadi-terrorist groups will continue to operate with impunity in most parts of the Kashmir as long they are provided shelter and hideouts by separatist organizations which are cooperating with Pakistan. The front organization of the terrorist groups function under several names taking advantage of the democratic freedom they enjoy in the state.
 
The situation will remain unchanged till terrorist bases and camps located across the LoC continue to function unhindered. So far India has not been able to convince Pakistan to dismantle fundamentalist groups who are sponsoring terrorism. India has to make its mind how long it is going to wait before it decides to destroy the terrorist organizations which are operating against it. It is evident that unless the Pakistani changes its policy radically the danger of an armed confrontation between the two countries will continue.
 
In view of various complex factors involved there is no immediate prospect of a solution of the Kashmir problem especially if sponsored terrorism continues to vitiate the atmosphere. The existing realities on the ground cannot be ignored and an objective assessment would suggest that the chances of an agreement on the Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan are still remote.

Major General Afsir Karim, retired Indian Army general, is a  military scholar who has authored several books on strategic affairs & military studies. He is considered to be a pre-eminent expert in the complex topic of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir having served a good part of his career in that part of India. He was a member of India's National Security Advisory Board (1999-2001). He edits the quarterly magazine AAKROSH -- Asian Journal on terrorism and internal conflicts.

 

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